UN and aid groups warn of ‘star­va­tion and death’ in Ye­men

The Scotsman - - World News - By AHMED AL-HAJ in Sanaa

0 Peo­ple wait next to empty gas cylin­ders for sup­plies amid in­creas­ing short­ages in the Ye­meni cap­i­tal Sanaa yes­ter­day The United Na­tions and more than 20 aid groups said yes­ter­day that the Saudi-led coali­tion’s tight­en­ing of a block­ade on war-torn Ye­men could bring mil­lions of peo­ple closer to “star­va­tion and death”. The an­nounce­ment comes a day after the UN’S hu­man­i­tar­ian chief warned that un­less the coali­tion lifts its block­ade the na­tion will face “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with mil­lions of vic­tims”.

About two-thirds of Ye­men’s pop­u­la­tion re­lies on im­ported sup­plies, said the aid groups, which in­clude CARE, Save the Chil­dren and Is­lamic Re­lief.

More than 20 mil­lion peo­ple need hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, in­clud­ing seven mil­lion fac­ing “famine­like” con­di­tions, they said.

Food sup­plies are ex­pected to run out within six weeks while vac­cines will last only a month.

They urged an “im­me­di­ate open­ing” of all air and sea­ports.

“If I have to com­pare Ye­men to a per­son, I would say that this per­son is very sick, this per­son is very weak­ened, and is be­ing drip-fed, so if you want to keep the pa­tient alive, we need to re­ac­ti­vate drip-feed­ing as soon as pos­si­ble,” In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross re­gional di­rec­tor for the Near and Mid­dle East Robert Mar­dini said.

The block­ade has al­ready led to a fuel cri­sis in the rebel-held cap­i­tal, Sanaa, where hun­dreds of cars lined the roads Wed­nes­day after the Houthis or­dered the clo­sure of fuel sta­tions. The rebels said they closed the sta­tions after mer­chants re­fused to fix prices. The price of fuel has risen by 50 per­cent since the coali­tion tight­ened the block­ade.

Ye­meni of­fi­cials also said those who need to be hos­pi­tal­ized abroad can­not leave the coun­try be­cause of the block­ade. They said the Houthis in Sanaa and the coali­tion in Adan are only in­ter­ested in treat­ing their own wounded. The of­fi­cials spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion with re­porters.

UN hu­man­i­tar­ian chief Mark Low­cock told re­porters after brief­ing the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil be­hind closed doors that there must be an im­me­di­ate re­sump­tion of reg­u­lar air flights to the cities of Aden and Sanaa by the UN and its hu­man­i­tar­ian part­ners.

“What we need to see is a re­duc­tion of block­ages on all sides, not an in­crease on them,” he said.

The coali­tion closed all ports and halted hu­man­i­tar­ian ship­ments after Ye­men’s Houthi rebels fired a bal­lis­tic mis­sile over the week­end that was in­ter­cepted near Riyadh. Saudi Ara­bia blamed the strike on Iran, which sup­ports the Houthis but has de­nied arm­ing them.

The US has also ac­cused Iran of sup­ply­ing ad­vanced weapons, in­clud­ing bal­lis­tic mis­siles, to the Houthis. The Houthis yes­ter­day re­jected the US al­le­ga­tions, say­ing they built the mis­sile them­selves.

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